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Constitutionalism after Empire (LAWS90142)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeLAWS90142
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject seeks to provide an overview of the theory and practice of constitutionalism in four countries in South and South East Asia: India, Indonesia, Singapore and Sri Lanka. Two of these are among the largest, most pluralistic nations in the world, while the remaining two are small island states. All four nations experienced long periods of colonial rule, which continues to have a decisive impact on their post-colonial legal and constitutional orders. The experience of colonialism contrasts quite starkly from those nations which were settler colonies, and this is an important focus of the course. In each of these nations, discussions about constitutionalism have become enmeshed within larger societal debates about economic development, cultural values, and human rights. The subject instructor has first-hand experience of research and teaching constitutional law in two of the four jurisdictions.

Principal topics include:

  • Brief overview of the field of comparative constitutionalism, and methodological approaches to the discipline
  • A broad introduction to the four jurisdictions, covering national histories, and their economic, social and political dimensions
  • A focus on the colonial experience in the four jurisdictions and the nature of the colonial economy, and its politics
  • The process of decolonization and the constitutional politics that was engendered as a result
  • An examination of the post-colonial Constitutions adopted in these countries, with an emphasis on rights provisions
  • Broad overview of post-colonial trajectories of the four jurisdictions, and their assessments by scholars
  • The policies of economic development that were followed and the impact on constitutional politics
  • Debates about culture, human rights and ‘Asian Values’.

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Obtain a sophisticated understanding of debates in the field of comparative constitutional law and methodological approaches
  • Develop an advanced level of understanding of constitutional politics to complement the knowledge of her own constitutional system
  • Obtain a more comprehensive grasp of the complexities that impact the constitutional health of a polity, by focusing on a range of situations beyond the default cases
  • Develop an updated appreciation for the continuing influence of patterns of colonialism on the contemporary legal orders of former colonies and be able to distinguish between policies in settler and non-settler colonies
  • Be exposed to a range of debates around 'Asian Values' that pose a challenge to mainstream understandings of universal human rights
  • Be exposed to the novel challenges confronted by leaders of new nations that sought to reverse colonialism and pursue economic development while simultaneously embracing forms of constitutionalism
  • Have a more nuanced understanding of the competing pulls and pressures of securing economic development while seeking to entrench forms of liberal constitutionalism
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating to comparative constitutional law and rights, and to critically evaluate existing legal theories, principles and concepts with creativity and autonomy.

Last updated: 3 April 2019